Growth CMOs vs Brand CMOs

Calibrate your Marketing in 2019 with M:CALIBRATE Marketing Model #1: Growth CMOs vs Brand CMOs.

CMOs and Marketing leaders find themselves in frequent discussions about the definition of Marketing. Is Marketing tactical OR is it strategic? Is it about golf balls and t-shirts OR customer experience? Depending upon your professional background, you may think of Marketing as Advertising or Client Service, Public Relations or Sales, Social Media or Data Analytics. The answer, of course, is that Marketing is all of these, but with an   integrated approach that is driven by business objectives. If you’re a “Growth CMO” (stay tuned), you know that most importantly, there should always be a generally sequential relationship between strategy and execution, and that good Marketing starts waaaay upstream. Spoiler alert: The missing  key  to sustainable growth may  be in  how you’re defining Marketing and what you’re expecting of the team’s leader.

CEOs, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Boards… Is your CMO a Growth CMO or a Brand CMO?

When a start-up Founder recently told me he was worried that he didn’t know if the agency he had hired was spending his company’s Marketing budget appropriately, and that he needed help analyzing his open and click- through rates, I asked him to hit pause and we took a quick journey upstream to discuss his strategy. Was he targeting customers who already use a version of the product OR was it the other half of the market who doesn’t  yet know this relatively new category exists? Was the product’s value proposition thereby a more effective way to do something than what they’d been doing; or was the benefit in offering a service they’d never before experienced? These critical strategic questions inform not only who the company is targeting, but how to reach them, the narrative on why to purchase the product, how to budget, and how to measure success. So until this was clearly sorted out – or at least until he and his leadership team had a reasonable working hypothesis – in the meantime, I suggested he stop throwing money at Facebook and stop counting click-throughs.

This simple example shows the importance of how an organization defines and deploys Marketing. When a company heads straight for tactics, they tend to lose time, miss milestones, and shave away at profitability. In Marketing as a functional discipline, strategy is king, but a strategic plan need not be confining or rigid. A living, breathing strategy provides direction on how to execute Marketing activities, guides prioritization of initiatives,   and directly shapes budgets; but it will also naturally evolve. When your team shares a consistent understanding of the strategy you can be poised to execute efficiently. So while total predictability is elusive, as competitive  dynamics or customer needs change, an agile team with a shared vision can pivot and frame its objectives. Letting your strategy and growth goals frame your brand narrative, resourcing, and the full range of Marketing execution tactics sets up your organization and your leadership team for success.

Ah-Ha Marketing Model #1: Growth CMOs vs Brand CMOs

Your definition of the Marketing function drives just how much is expected of its leader. A study done by the CMO Council and Deloitte* resulted in an insightful framework that pulls these ideas together in the context of  describing two types of Marketing leaders. The first, which they refer to as Brand CMOs, are increasingly evolving into the second, Growth CMO’s. The Marketing function has always been associated with the growth drivers of a business, but until more recently, it’s been with a focus on GAINS, ie “short-term ‘pops of engagement and transaction, typically resulting from efforts such as individual sales-enablement programs and demand- generation campaigns,” as opposed to GROWTH, ie “long-term, sustainable expansion delivered through corporate-wide, revenue-focused strategies and decisions.”*

Growth CMOs fully embrace the strategy/execution relationship. They partner internally across silos, establish a growth playbook that engages the full C-suite, and are highly data-driven. They are typically focused on identifying new product strategies, global market expansion, operational efficiencies and M&A opportunities. They are able to build upon foundational experience in brand building and customer engagement to take their organizations to the next level competitively. Brand CMOs are strong in storytelling  and communications, but Growth CMOs are also highly skilled in data and intelligence, they harvest customer insights to drive innovation, and they own Customer Experience. Growth CMOs move beyond campaign metrics to focus on the business metrics of Revenues, Gross Margin, Market Share, Customer Retention, and Net Promoter Score.

Perhaps your Brand leader should be reporting to your Growth leader. As Forrester Market Research predicted in late 2017, CEOs pressured to amp-up growth during slower periods will need a catalyst for change. In this environment, “visionary CMOs will focus on growth and customer obsession.” Chief Growth Officers may even replace Chief Marketing Officers.

So, is Marketing…

  • Customer Journey / Experience? If your company is not focused here yet, you likely should be soon. End-to-end customer experience (CX) is about delivering on your brand promise across all touchpoints to ensure customer retention and growth. Drive CX design through customer intelligence.
  • Public Relations? YES, but not all ink is meaningful Get in the publications your customers read and those that reinforce the content and brand strategy you’ve established. Prioritize tactical PR efforts for greatest impact.
  • Advertising? MAYBE, but typically only if you’re going mass market or can reach your customers through highly targeted Evaluate ROI carefully.
  • Golf Balls? SURE, but only if 1:1 relationship development is key to your client development strategy, and if your salesforce is golfing with the kinds of clients that deliver the lifetime value you expect. Cool stuff with your logo only means so .. put in place metrics to track actual client development efforts.
  • Sales, social media, creative, events, SEO, sponsorships, ? You get the idea… define your growth strategy, then calibrate how you execute.

Bottom Line: Whether you’re a CEO seeking to  enhance  growth  or  profitability,  an  Investor  who  wants your portfolio companies to perform better and minimize failures, or a CMO who knows you have  the potential to add greater value in  your  organization,  start  with  redefining  Marketing  to  include  its upstream, strategic drivers. Then, ensure that the  team  is  led  by  someone  who  serves  as  a  “Growth CMO,” who has higher order skills, is attuned to business metrics, and who can guide strategically-minded  and integrated execution.

Contact Allison Berey at allison@MCALIBRATE to further discuss these ideas, explore a Fractional CMO relationship, or to share a great Marketing Model. Visit

*Find further insights and detail on the Growth CMO vs Brand CMO model are available in the CMO Council and Deloitte’s reports, “CMO’s and the Spark to Drive Growth” and “The CMO Growth-Driving Playbook.”